Adam Sisman is an award-winning writer, author of Boswell's Presumptuous Task, shortlisted for the Whitbread Prize and winner of the US National Book Critics Circle Award for Biography, and biographer of A. J. P. Taylor and Hugh Trevor-Roper. He lives in Bristol.
John le Carre is still at the top, more than half a century after The Spy Who Came in from the Cold became a worldwide bestseller. From his bleak childhood - the departure of his mother when he was five was followed by 'sixteen hugless years' in the dubious care of his father, a serial-seducer and con-man - through recruitment by both MI5 and MI6, to his emergence as the master of the espionage novel, le Carre has repeatedly quarried his life for his fiction. Millions of readers are hungry to know the truth about him.
Over half a century since The Spy Who came in from the Cold made John le Carre a worldwide, bestselling sensation, David Cornwell, the man behind the pseudonym, remains an enigma. He has consistently quarried his life for his writing, and his novels seem to offer tantalizing glimpses of their author - but in the narrative of his life fact and fiction have become intertwined, and little is really known of one of the world's most successful writers. In Cornwell's lonely childhood Adam Sisman uncovers the origins of the themes of love and abandonment which have dominated le Carre's fiction: the departure of his mother when he was five, followed by 'sixteen hugless years' in the dubious care of his father, a man of energy and charm, a serial seducer and conman who hid the Bentleys in the trees when the bailiffs came calling - a 'totally incomprehensible father' who could 'put a hand on your shoulder and the other in your pocket, both gestures equally sincere'. And in Cornwell's adult life - from recruitment by both MI5 and MI6, through marriage and family life, to his emergence as the master of the spy novel - Sisman explores the idea of espionage and its significance in human terms; the extent to which betrayal is acceptable in exchange for love; and the endless need for forgiveness, especially from oneself. Written with exclusive access to David Cornwell himself, to his private archive and to the most important people in his life - family, friends, enemies, intelligence ex-colleagues and ex-lovers - and featuring a wealth of previously unseen photographic material, Adam Sisman's extraordinarily insightful and constantly revealing biography brings in from the cold a man whose own life has been as complex and confounding and filled with treachery as any of his novels. 'I'm a liar,' Cornwell has written. 'Born to lying, bred to it, trained to it by an industry that lies for a living, practised in it as a novelist.' This is the definitive biography of a major writer, described by Ian McEwan as 'perhaps the most significant novelist of the second half of the twentieth century in Britain'.
The definitive biography of the internationally adored author of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, and A Perfect Spyarguably one of the most important and influential writers of the post-World War II periodby the National Book Critics Circle Award-winning biographer Adam Sisman.In this definitive biographyblessed by John le Carr himselfAdam Sisman reveals the man behind the bestselling persona. In John le Carr, Sisman shines a spotlight on David Cornwell, an expert at hiding in plain sightborn to lying, he wrote in 2002, bred to it, trained to it by an industry that lies for a living, practiced in it as a novelist.Of course, the pseudonym John le Carr has helped to keep the public at a distance. Sisman probes Cornwells unusual upbringing, abandoned by his mother at the age of only five and raised by his con man father (when not in prison), and explores his background in British intelligence, as well as his struggle to become a writer, and his personal life. Sisman has benefited from unfettered access to le Carrs private archive, talked to the most important people in his life, and interviewed the man himself at length.Who is John le Carr? Intriguing, thorough, and packed with entertaining detail, this biography will be a treat for the legions of le Carr fans.
The first book to explore the extraordinary story of the legendary friendship - and quarrel - between Wordsworth and Coleridge, two giants of English Romanticism.Wordsworth and Coleridge's passionate intimacy, shared ambition and subsequent estrangement contribute to a tragic tale. But Sisman's biography of this most remarkable friendship - the first to devote itself wholly to exploring the impact of their relationship on each other - seeks to re-examine the orthodox assumption that these two poets flourished as a result of it. Instead, Sisman argues that it was a meeting that may well have been disastrous for both: for it was Wordsworth's rejection of Coleridge, and not primarily his opium addiction, that destroyed the latter as a poet, and that Coleridge's impossible ambitions for Wordsworth pushed the latter towards failure and disappointment.Underlying the poignancy of the tale is the intriguing subject of the influence one writer can have on another. Sisman seeks to answer fundamental questions about this relationship: why was Wordsworth so reliant on Coleridge, and why was he so easily swayed in the most critical decision of his career? Was it in Coleridge's nature to play second fiddle? Would it, in fact, have been better for both men if they had never met?